Alan Wake is a property of Remedy’s that has a pretty hardcore, dedicated fanbase. There have been promising signs by way of the spin-off American Nightmare or the more recent instance of Remedy buying back the right to the IP, but Control: AWE is by far the best indicator yet.
Much like Control: The Foundation, AWE introduces players to a previously undiscovered district of the FBC, this time the investigations wing. And the Alan Wake references start immediately, with the writer himself making a (brief) appearance. Perhaps most important is the fact that this DLC doesn’t play well to those unfamiliar with the prior games. There is little hand-holding, and many of the hints scattered throughout are meaningless without prior knowledge of characters and events. This is great for fans of Alan Wake, but not so much for newcomers, especially since Alan Wake has not been playable in any form on a PlayStation platform at any point in its life. Not yet, anyway.
Visually, the dense labyrinthine environments fold in on themselves much like with other regions of the FBC. Unfortunately, with the exception of the boss arenas -- of which there are several -- the environments don’t really bring anything new to the table. Certainly not in the way The Foundation managed. No, the star is very much the connective tissue to Alan Wake. The collectibles are almost exclusively Wake related, and many of them hint at earth-shaking, lore-altering ideas that had either been previously unexplored or only teased. These revelations are especially important because the core narrative is pretty threadbare.
As with The Foundation, we get a new weapon mode: Surge. While not an unwelcome addition, it is rather redundant; a remote-detonated grenade launcher, to go along with the impact based one we already have. It’s underwhelming, even if the weapon is rather powerful.
Perhaps where things get most creative are the many boss fights. You face off with the horrifically mutated visage of Dr. Emil Hartman, a minor character from Alan Wake. This also gives the team the perfect chance to brilliantly incorporate Alan Wake’s primary antagonist: darkness. Using portable lights have already factored into key moments through Control, so these leaps feel like a natural one. The mechanic integrates so seamlessly into the experience that it’d be easy to believe that this is what Remedy intended all along. You have to keep a collection of generators powered in each arena, which strips away Hartman’s strongest defense, resulting in an intriguing game of cat-and-mouse, though one that gets repeated an almost laughable number of times before you finish him for good.
If you’re already a fan of Alan Wake, this is a brilliant experience that provides more juicy tidbits from the beloved property. If you’re new to Alan Wake, though, this is not the right starting point. Wait for the –hopefully – PS5 remaster and then come back to AWE after that.